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Olivier Ker Ourio: Oversea

Budd Kopman By

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That the music on the delightful and immediately ingratiating album Oversea would be termed "world music" is belied by the globe on the cover and the inside liner. It is centered on Reunion Island, which is in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. The island is a French territory, and where chromatic harmonica player Olivier Ker Ourio grew up. Furthermore, he was born in Paris to parents whose ancestors came from Brittany, and who settled on Reunion in 1728, making Ker Ourio's natural influences manifold.

However, the "world music" label does not really fit, since the various audible influences—French, African, Creole, Caribbean, Brazilian, Indian, American blues and jazz, and even the Belgian of his musical father, Toots Thielemans—are so thoroughly mixed that what one hears must be termed Ker Ourio-ian. Hence, Oversea is not a stylistic pastiche, but rather a unique musical gift from a formidable musician.

What makes the album is Ker Ourio's lyricism, which rides over the mélange of styles and distinctive arrangements, and which ties the album together. This happy music clearly reflects the musical soul of Ker Ourio, which is why it is so inviting and aurally addictive.

On Oversea, Ker Ourio has enlisted the talents of a number of musicians associated with the Dreyfus label, the main two of which are guitarist Sylvain Luc (who co-produced the album with Francis Dreyfus) and drummer Andre Ceccarelli—although pianist Jean-Michel Pilc and violinist Didier Lockwood make strong individual contributions. All but one of the tracks are under five minutes, and quite a few are under four minutes, creating the feel of a set of intimate vignettes that nonetheless often bristles with energy.

The central third of the album presents Ker Ourio's musical aesthetic most clearly and deeply, especially since he wrote all but one of these tunes. "7 en Septembre" sports lively rhythms with interesting guitar work by Luc and accompanying vocals (in some language related to French) by Andre Minvielle. There are two duets—"Dimitile" with Pilc and "Petite Fleur Aimee" with Luc—both of which show Ker Ourio working closely and sensitively with the other musician. "Ileta Cordes" vacillates between darker and lighter moods with spare guitar from Luc, supported by drummer Ceccarelli and bassist Diego Imbert.

The mood lightens with "Santa Cruz" and its sensuous, bouncing rhythm along with the wonderful interplay between Ker Ourio and violinist Lockwood. The longest track, which is also the closest to pure jazz on the record, is "Le Secret des Longitudes," with its softly swinging beat and changing meter. Trombonist Glenn Ferris blends perfectly with Ker Ourio, and the music goes deeper still with pianist Manuel Rocheman's solo.

On Oversea, Ker Ourio has created a many-faceted musical world that is full of sheer fun as well as deep enjoyment.

Track Listing: Panier su la tete, nichante; Mange pou le coeur; Alfie; P'tit Case en Paille; 7 en Septembre; Dimitile; Ileta Cordes; Santa Cruz; Le Secret des Longitudes; Petite Fleur Aimee; Maracaibo; Le Roi dans le Bois; Lost Island; L'ile Retrouvee.

Personnel: Olivier Ker Ourio: chromatic harmonica; Sylvain Luc: guitar (1, 5, 7, 10, 11), newspaper (1), 12-string guitar (3), bass (5, 11, 12), keys (11); Danyel Waro: vocals (2, 12), kayamb (2, 12); Laurent Dalleau: kayamb (2, 12), rouler (2, 12); Diego Imbert: bass (2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 13); Manuel Rocheman: Fender Rhodes (2), piano (3, 4, 8, 9); Louis Winsberg: sitar (2), guitar (14); Andre Ceccarelli: drums (3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13); Glenn Ferris: trombone (3, 9); Andre Minvielle: vocals (5), jew's harp (5); Khalid Kouhen: percussion (5); Jean-Michel Pilc: piano (6).

Title: Oversea | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Dreyfus Records

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